Dear Abby: Some time ago, an item appeared in your column about an elderly lady who lost weight on a diet she composed. She lost weight on it and went, I think, from a size 14 to a size 6. I forgot what eating pattern she followed.

Could you let me have a copy of that program? Thank you!- Helen Mason, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Dear Helen: The letter was written by an 85-year-old widow, who was enjoying a new lease on life. Here is it . . .

Dear Abby: This is in reply to "Enjoying Life in Florida," who felt comfortable about her body even though she was heavy. I could have written that letter. When I was a bride, I was 5 feet tall and weighed 105 pounds. After 32 years of marriage, I was widowed, and within a year, my weight had doubled.

Now, here is where we part company. I would like to tell "Enjoying Life" how I took off weight. On my 80th birthday, I was a basket case. Arthritis was racking my knees and other joints, and I ached all over. In addition, I had high blood pressure, indigestion and all of the other problems that go with obesity. Then I decided to do something about it.

Today, I'm 85; I wear a size 10 dress, and even more important, I am free of pain. I walk a mile in 20 minutes. (I can outwalk most people half my age!) People who know me are astonished that I did this without help from any organized group or special diet foods.

Here's my advice to people who want to do what I did. Remember, you didn't get fat overnight. Ease into your new habits. Never talk about what you are doing, just do it! Let others "discover" that you are losing weight.

First, cut down the size of your portions, then limit your meals to healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, lean meat and nonfat milk. Drink at least 10 glasses of liquids a day (most of it should be water). When you cut out the fats and sweets, you will be surprised at how good the other foods taste. Even a baked potato can be a treat.

Start exercising. Begin slowly, then gradually increase the time, but do it so regularly that it becomes a habit.

Moderation is the key to success. Substitute common sense for bad habits. Life for me didn't begin at 40. It began at 80.

- Happy At Last in Oklahoma

Dear Happy: What an inspirational letter! Too bad we'll never know how many men and women over 50 followed your lead. Thanks for the wake-up call.

Dear Abby: A young lady in our town is getting married next month. Her shower invitations arrived and on them was this message:

"Please remember to attach the receipt to your gift that you bring."

Abby, we are speechless and wonder if this is a new and acceptable practice. I am enclosing my name, but since this is a fairly small town, please sign me "Stunned in Salem County," and maybe the bridal party will recognize this. Mailed from . . .

- Pennsville, N.J.

Dear `Stunned': It may be a new practice, but I find it unacceptable. Don't blame the bridal party. Those who organized the bridal shower are responsible for the wording on the invitation.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable - and most frequently requested - poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

1994 Universal Press Syndicate